Sporty 2018 Ford Escape ST-Line medium SUV reviewed
The $44,000 drive-away ST-Line sits just below the luxury Titanium, with which it shares the same 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and all-wheel drive.
It gets gloss black 19-inch alloys, black grille and lower bumper inserts and twin exhaust outlets. Inside, the sports seats are covered in a faux-suede material, the leather steering wheel has matching stitching and there are built-in navigation, Apple Car Play/Android Auto, digital radio, CD player and premium Sony audio. Dual-zone aircon and proximity key with push button start are also standard but the hands-free tailgate opening is an $800 option.
Warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres and capped price service program for three years costs $1185.
Get behind the wheel and the vast dashboard makes the front of the car seem far away. The driving position is comfortable and the Escape is one of the roomiest in its class for cabin and cargo space. The rear seats fold almost flat and there's a space-saver spare.
There are large cubbies in the doors, although the centre console and glovebox are average in size, and vents to the second row. The two USB outlets up front are fast chargers and there are 12V sockets front and rear.
The ST-Line comes with factory tinted glass on the rear doors. There is a central locking switch on each front door panel, so the front passenger can lock and unlock the car. For late night long hauls, the instrument cluster can be almost blacked out to show only the needles and digital speed readout. It's easy on the eyes.
Standard are seven airbags, city-speed autonomous emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, blind zone warning, front and rear parking sensors and hi-res rear view camera with guide lines that turn with the steering. An optional $800 safety package includes radar cruise control that adds highway-speed AEB, lane keep assistance, automatic high-beam dipping and tyre pressure monitors.
The 2.0-litre turbo turns a six-speed auto (with sports and normal modes and paddle-shifters) and on-demand all-wheel drive. It's not hot hatch quick but it's brisk for a mid-size SUV. We stopped the clock in the 0-100km/h dash in 7.6 seconds. The Michelin tyres have decent grip and the suspension is a touch busy over bumps rather than firm. Enthusiasts will like the communicative feel. Towing capacity is less than most class rivals: 1600kg.
Holden Equinox LTZ-V $46,000 drive-away
Doesn't look as sporty as the Escape ST-Line but the 2.0-litre turbo petrol has more grunt (188kW/353Nm) and, paired with a nine-speed auto, has a fraction more zip (0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds). Extra luxury features include dual sunroof, ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel. Tows 2000kg.
Peugeot 3008 1.6 GT-Line $49,000 drive-away
Smaller, less powerful turbo (115kW/240Nm) with six-speed auto and front-drive does a fair job and is slightly more economical. Claims 0-100km/h in 9.5 seconds and insists on premium unleaded. Tows 1500kg.
VW Tiguan 162TSI Highline $49,490 plus on-roads
In the realigned Tiguan range, the Highline is as good as it gets for now. The 2.0-litre turbo (162kW/350Nm) paired to a seven-speed twin clutch auto and all-wheel drive clocked 6.8 seconds for the 0-100km/h dash. Tows 2500kg.
It has enough sporting intent to liven up the SUV class but, if you want a little more luxury, take the Equinox for a decent test drive.
Ford Escape ST-Line vitals
Price $44,000 drive-away
Safety 5 stars, 7 airbags, city-speed AEB, front and rear sensors, rear camera, blind zone warning, rear cross traffic alert
Engine 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 178kW/345Nm